Historical Buddhist Shrines & Monesteries

Historical Buddhist Shrines & Monesteries

Above photo-Ajith C Ratnayaka




"Archaeologists have recorded over 200,000 ruined Buddhist Monasteries and Temples in Sri Lanka. Of them, over 70.000 were in the North and the East. Two great events in the early history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka left a deep impression and still evoke pious enthusiasm among millions of Buddhists. The transplantation of a branch of the Bodhi tree under which Buddhahood was attained served as an inspiration to the people who had recently embraced the religion. The second event was the bringing of the Buddha's tooth relic from India."

  • Buddhist Art: - Stupas - Novel features and designs ( Just as much as literature in Sri Lanka grew with Buddhism, so did the countrys art and architecture as well as sculpture - all vital aspects of a countrys heritage. The earliest monument found in Sri Lanka is the stupa, which is described as a hemispherical dome surmounted with a spire (kota))
  • kalaniya Raja maha Viharaya (The history of Kalaniya goes back to pre-Christian times. The city was connected with the history of Ramayana in that its Yakkha king Vibhisana was befriended by Rama in his battle against Ravana. Hence, the worship of Vibhisana as the tutelary deity of Kalaniya is continued to present times.)
  • Nagadipa Vihara ( Buddha's visit to Nagadipa to settle a dispute between Chulodara and Mahodara, two kings belonging to the Naga tribe, over the possession of a gem studded throne. It was a battle between uncle and nephew - the uncle being Mahodara and Chulodara, the nephew. )
  • Digavapi Vihara ( Digavapi Mandala or Digamadulla is supposed to be the settlement named after Prince Dighayu, one of six brothers of Baddha Katyana, the queen of King Panduwas Deva. )
  • Dighavapi Viharaya ( According to the University history of Ceylon in the legendary accounts of the landing of Vijaya and his followers it has been recorded that the earliest arrivals founded settlements in places where water was available. One such settlement was at Dighavapi in the Gal Oya valley. )
  • Kudumbigala : an aranya senansanaya in the pre-Christian era ( The inscriptions in brahmi script and other evidence in the recently discovered cave, Maha Sudharshana Lena, shows that Kudumbigala was established as an aranya senansanaya in the pre-Christian era. A stone inscription has it that the Maha Sudharshana Lena was built and gifted to the Arahats by Nandimitra Yodaya, one of King Dutugemunus "Dasa Maha Yodayas". )
  • Buddangala Monastery  ( This Sri Lanka's oldest monastery (Buddangala) is situated in a mountain over 500 feet high. The Dagaba has been enshrined with the relics of Buddha and his two leading monks Seriyuth and Mugalan's remains.) New
  • Pilikuththuwa Raja Maha Vihara( Not far away from the city of Colombo, a priceless cultural heritage is found at a len vihara called Pilikuththuwa Raja Maha Vihara, atop a mountain frontier. It is off Yakkala on the Colombo-Kandy road, about 30 miles from Colombo. The len vihara lies in the upper maluwa (higher terrace), just going past the two giant Bodhiyas looming over the premises.) New
  • Tantirimale - as old as Buddhist Lanka ( Actually it is no exaggeration to state that Tantirimale now neglected and forlorn, is as old as Buddhist Lanka. In fact, it was one of the first colonies that the Aryan group that came over in 6th century BC established.)
  • The Arankale monastery - A lost intriguing civilisation ( It was built to shelter the Buddhist monks who spent their time in meditation to reach the ultimate state a human can ever reach. )
  • Akerawita vihara: A historically important temple ( A Raja Maha Vihara )
  • Dimbulagala Raja Maha Vihara & Forgotten frescoes at Pulligoda Galge (The Dimbulagala range is said to house a number of caves cut into the rock with Brahmi inscriptions over their drip ledges as proving their antiquity. This forest hermitage of medieval times and holy abode since time immemorial, home to some of the most valued fragments of early frescoes was called the Gunners Quoin by the British for some reason.)
  • The Madunagala Vihare: dates back to the time of the Anuradhapura period.(The Madunagala Vihare is situated a few miles away from Ambalantota, in the jungle.)
  • Aluvihara- where Tripitakas were written ( The epic reign of king Valagamba/Vattagamani (104-77 B.C.) would go into the annals of the Buddhist literary history as the Tripitakas (Buddhist scriptures) were written down on ola leaves in Pali by a conclave of Buddhist monks of the Aluvihara Temple, lying close to Matale. )
  • The historical Ambakke temple (There is a small village called "Arathtana" which was, many moons ago in Sri Lanka, well known for its dancers and drummers.)
  • Ambekke Devale: A wooden wonder (Ambekke Devale, famed for its elaborate woodcarvings, pillars and other structures, nestle in the Udu Nuwara.Enticing Wood carvings - The UNESCO has identified these marvellous but elaborate carvings on wooden pillars to be the finest products of woodcarvings to be found in any part of the world.)

  • Lankathilaka (The Lankatilaka image house is a fine example of a Buddhist-Hindu shrine of the fourteenth century. The Buddhist pilimage faces east and the Hindu devale is orientated to the west.)

  • Velgam Vehera : The Buddhist shrine of the Tamils (An inscription on a rock halfway up the hill on the summit on which are the remains of a stupa belongs to the reign of Batiya Maharaja or King Bhatika Tissa II (circa 149 A.D.))

  • Seruwila  the temple of reconciliation ( Some 30 kilometres south of Trincomalee on the coastal road from Trincomalee to Batticaloa, is an ancient temple which is one of the sixteen holiest Buddhist shrines in Sri Lanka. Seruwila Raja Maha Vihare is also accessible from Kantalai on the 45 kilometre long road froma Kantalai to Allai. )
  • The saga of Seruwila Mangala Viharaya (It is believed that three viharas existed at this particular spot built during the periods of three former Buddhas named Kakusanda, Konagama and Kasyapa with their relics enshrined and Gautama Buddha who was the last Buddha in this eon had personally visited this place and offered eight handfuls of 'Sapu' flowers. Gautama Buddha has not only foreseen that a king by the name of Kavantissa will build a temple with his forehead relic enshrined in it but has wished that this temple should be named 'Mangala' viharaya.)
  • Ramba Viharaya - A lost capital emerges ( Believed by historians to have been built during the 11th century, Ramba Viharaya has about it an aura of mystery, enhanced by the fact that the sacred shrine is surrounded by acres of ruins that are yet to be excavated. Historians also guess that somewhere to the south of this temple, buried under thick shrub and jungle foliage, are remains of the ancient kingdom built by King Vijayabahu I in the 11th century AD. )
  • Varana Rajamaha Vihara ( Warana is a majestic, rocky mountain close to Veyangoda, off the Colombo-Kandy road at the Thihariya junction. )
  • The Nawagamuwa Vihara: The temple by the river( Nawagamuwa is located at the 13th milepost on the old Colombo - Ratnapura road. It is believed that during the early Anuradhapura period, Nawagamuwa belonged to the Kelani kingdom.)
  • Mahiyangana Cetiya - the first of its kind in Sri Lanka( It is the first cetiya in Sri Lanka, built during the life-time of the Buddha.) 
  • Sasthrawela temple - a historic Buddhist shrine buried in jungle( Hundreds of miles to the east, buried in vengeful jungle, is a historic Buddhist shrine. Few, if any devotees, worship there. Fearful of the bear, leopard and wild elephant, nobody lives in the surrounding areas.) 
  • Aukana & Resvehera - The tallest Buddha statues in Sri Lanka( The rock cut statue which stands 39 feet above its decorated lotus plinth and 10 feet across the shoulders, belongs to the period of King Dhatusena (459-477 AD), the builder of the great reservoir Kalawewa. It has been very well preserved over the years and is a joy for anyone to see and appreciate. It is a unique creation by an unknown sculptor.) 
  • Somawathie Chetiya( The Somawathi Chaithya is located by the bank of the Mahaveli River within the Sanctuary named after it and nearly 20 km north east of Polonnaruwa.) 
  • Wewurukannala Vihara (Dominated by an image of a seated Buddha. It is 160ft high, the largest statue in all of Sri Lanka and dates back to the time of King Rajadhi (1782 - 1798).)
  • Dematamal Viharaya (Ruhuna or Rohana in the deep South of Lanka has many Buddhist monasteries scattered throughout the entire area steeped in history. Dematamal Viharaya is one such monastery that lies four kilometres from Buttala town on the road to the historic Maligawala Bodhisatva statue.)
  • Magul Maha Viharaya - Lahugala (King Kavantissa meet the Princess and married her in keeping with traditional customs, and she became Queen Vihara Maha Devi. "The Magul Poruwa" said to be of the Royal couple could be seen amongst ancient ruins in a temple called "Magul Maha Viharaya" in Lahugala)
  • Mulkirigala (Mulgirigala) Raja Maha Viharaya - The rock temple down south (The temple, which dates back to the 3rd century BC, is a Raja Maha Viharaya, one that received royal patronage. There are several theories as to its origin. It is believed to be one of 64 temples erected by King Kavantissa)
  • Senanigala Raja Maha Vihara: The ancient grounds where King Dutugamunu gathered his men (Senanigala Raja Maha Vihara has a long history dating back to the days of King Dutugemunu when he was on his way with his army to wage war against Elara who reigned supreme in Anuradhapura.)
  • Ridi Vihara, where three great religions meet (In a small village at Ridigama about 13 miles from Kurunegala atop a hill, is perched the interesting cave temple of Ridi Vihara. It is a place where Sinhala, Buddhist, Tamil, Hindu and Christian art abide together - a delightful treasure trove.)
  • Nalanda Gedige (The small building is designed like a Hindu temple with a mandapa, an entrance hall (originally roofed), a short passage to a bare cello, and an ambulatory round the holy center. )
  • Solosmasthaana : The 16 PLACES OF VENERATION ( According to the chronicles of Sri Lanka, there are 16 places hallowed by visits of the Buddha. )
  • Historical Buddhist Temples in Sri Lanka
  • Ancient Buddhist shrines the Trincomalee district ( The Archaeological Department has identified no less than 74 buddhist shrines and archaeological sites in the Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts. )
  • Ancient Buddhist shrines in Batticaloa and Ampara ( The Archaeological Department has identified 55 buddhist shrines and archaeological sites in the Batticaloa and Ampara districts. )
More Heritage
  • Adisham Bungalow - country seat of Sir Thomas Villiers (The spirit of Thomas Lister Villiers strongly pervades this stately house. Villiers came to Ceylon in 1887 with 10 sterling pounds in his pocket.)

  • Bogoda Roofed Bridge (Bogoda, with its ancient temple and wooden bridge lies some 30 kilometres from Bandarawela and 10 km from Badulla, off the Hali-ela junction. Believed to be the oldest surviving wooden bridge in the world, the Bogoda bridge dates back to the 1600s, but the temple just by it, has a much longer history, going back to the 1st century BC.)
  • The Bogoda bridge: Ancient bridge leads to caves of mystery (This bridge is 50 ft. in length and 5 ft. wide. Two wooden poles bear the entire weight of the bridge. The roof of the bridge is covered in indigenous tiles (Sinhala ulu) and two wooden fences decorated in various designs, have been erected on either side. Interestingly, not a single nail has been used in the construction of the bridge. All parts fit neatly into each other.)
  • St. Lucia's Cathedral - Kotahena : The oldest & the largest

  • The house by Bulankulame Wewa ( This ancient house by the Bulankulame Wewa is believed to be the oldest house in Sri Lanka dating back almost 400 years. )
  • Pahala Walauwa: Savour cool Kotmale climes ( Pahala Walauwa, the "Maha Gedera" or ancestral home of Gamini Dissanayake's mother, has seen a major slice of the history of Ceylon, having been built more than 200 years ago. )
  • The Limestone Grottos of Vavulpane(The grotos consist of at least 12 caves of varying sizes. The caves are appropriately named; it means Cave of Bats after the 250,000 bats that inhabit it. )
  • The Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya ( During the second world war, the headquarters of the South East Asia Command under the Late Lord Louis Mountbatten as Supreme Allied Commander was sited at the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya.)
  • Aliwatte: a spacious cave in a massive rock with royal secrets ('Aliwatte' in Yatiyantota with a spacious cave in a massive rock, covering several perches of land, where King Walagamba had found secret accommodation once, during his exile)
  • Seetha Eliya / Sita Eliya ( The Ramayana introduces King Ravana as a mighty flamboyant King of Lanka. King Ravana was a devotee of god Siva the holder of Pushparaga the chariot. It was Ravana who seized Seetha from Parnasalai in India, the holy hut of Rama and was brought to Asok Vana, a beautiful park at Seetha-Eliya on the Pushparaga, an air chariot - without touching her )
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